To be a productive member of society, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adult men and women get seven or more hours of sleep per night. Not only will this increase their performance at work or school, but it allows for their best health and well-being. Short sleep duration is defined as less than seven hours of sleep per 24-hour period.
Good sleep promotes a healthy lifestyle, and there is no disputing that fact. Sleep will represent a third of our lives, and it has a significant impact on how we function in the other two-thirds of our lives. Sleep to a human is just as important as the air we breathe or the food we consume, especially for those with a chronic disease or compromised immune systems.
If you are reading this article, you may be one of the 50 to 70 million that are affected by sleep-related issues. You may have been prescribed Ambien as a means to finally fall asleep. It’s more common than you’d imagine. Sleep disorders do not discriminate and affect people of all ages, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Seventy percent of adults report insufficient sleep at least one night a month, whereas another 11 percent report inadequate sleep every night.
Sleepiness affects our vigilance, reaction times, learning abilities, mood, alertness, hand-eye coordination, and accuracy of short-term memory. Sleep deprivation causes on-the-job accidents, auto crashes, and multi-model transportation tragedies.
Medications have been in place for decades that ease the transition each night into our dreams. Unfortunately, many of these medications, such as benzodiazepines have been dangerous and cause adverse long-term effects like addiction. Scientists eventually synthesized a new class of medicines known as Z-drugs. These have been marketed as useful, but less addictive sleep aids. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and drugs such as Ambien can be highly addictive and cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Ambien?
The first step in understanding what Ambien withdrawal consists of is knowledge about Ambien itself. Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) is a psychoactive drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that affect perception and brain function; however, Ambien is more used to treat sleep disorders.
Ambien is the number one sleeping pill on the market right now, and older demographics (60 and older) benefit greatly from Ambien. Although it is a popular prescription drug, Ambien can still prove to be harmful and addictive.
Oral consumption of Ambien is most common and is usually taken in the form of a small, oblong tablet or an extended-release tablet. Although oral ingestion is most common, it is not uncommon for Ambien to be crushed up and snorted for faster results.
Even though Ambien is classified as a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic, the benefits, side effects, and risks are almost identical to those of benzodiazepines. On a molecular level, Ambien is vastly different from drugs like alprazolam and diazepam, which have similar sedative effects to that of Ambien.
Known on the street as Zombie pills, sleepeasy, and No-Go pills due to its sedative effects, Ambien has earned its many names for rightful reasons. Its powerful effects can cause a self-confidence boost, hallucinations, and a dizzy feeling similar to the effects of alcohol.
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are like the many other millions of Americans prescribed Ambien, it’s very possible to end up dependent and addicted to your medication. Even when taken correctly, the potential for abuse and dependence exists.
It is also important to note that the cessation of the medication can not only produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms but in certain cases, can be deadly. So what should you expect when you stop taking the medication for good?
When it comes to Ambien withdrawal, some of the symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
- Rapid heart rate
What Are the Stages of the Ambien Withdrawal Timeline?
When getting off of Ambien, the withdrawal time should be anywhere from one to two weeks. Throughout this time, the withdrawal symptoms will begin to appear within 48 hours of the last dose.
The first three to five days, symptoms will peak. This means that during this period, physical symptoms will be at their worst and is the riskiest time during the withdrawal process.
The remaining week the user will continue to experience some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms, reducing each day until they subside completely.
The severity of the symptoms and how long they persist directly depend on how long you took Ambien as well as the amount you were taking and when the final dose was administered.
Why Should I Detox?
Ambien withdrawals, while for the most part are relatively mild in comparison to other substances, can be dangerous. The severe depression and lack of sleep put users at an increased risk for suicidal ideations.
“The propensity of seizures, although only occurring in less than one percent of cold turkey Ambien withdrawals, still exist. Seizures can be potentially life-threatening and cause permanent damage to your brain and other organs. Proper medical care is highly suggested to circumvent a potential tragedy. ”
The term “cold turkey” refers to the immediate cessation of drug or alcohol use. Going cold turkey is very common for people that attempt to detox themselves. While it may sound good on paper, quitting something cold turkey can prove detrimental to the entire addiction recovery process.
Once someone becomes addicted to a substance, the continuous intake of that substance causes that person’s body to adjust to it. In the case of Ambien, the body works overtime to stay awake, counteracting the powerful hypnotic effects of the drug. Immediately quitting Ambien gives the body no time to adjust from working overtime to complete sobriety. This is the main cause behind Ambien withdrawal symptoms.
Quitting cold turkey is almost always dangerous and can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. The first choice for treatment should always be professional help, where you can comfortably detox under 24-hour medical supervision.
Medications Used to Treat Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
A medical professional may prescribe psychiatric treatments for depression or anxiety that is a result of Ambien withdrawal. There are a few drugs that will treat the effects. Anti-seizure medications can be used to help those who suffer seizures during withdrawal. Anyone suffering from severe anxiety or suicidal thoughts are likely to receive short-term prescriptions for mood-stabilizing medicines.
Researchers have found a medicine known as quetiapine, an antipsychotic that is used in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar, and severe depression can help with Ambien withdrawal symptoms.
There are no recommended guidelines for the medication at this time.
Those who are attempting to stop using Ambien must speak to medical professionals about the withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, during detox, they will work with you to alleviate the worst of the symptoms. Doctors may work with the client to taper the Ambien dose, as opposed to stopping cold turkey. It will help to prevent seizures and reduce other withdrawal symptoms.
While medications will be used, and the individual will successfully stop using Ambien, detox is not a long-term solution. Those struggling with addiction have underlying issues causing the problem. They must commit themselves to more intensive treatment to overcome and learn about their addiction.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
If you are ready to give up Ambien for good, the first step is checking into a medical detox facility. Upon your arrival, you will be assessed and treated for your addiction to Ambien. A staff of medical professionals will be present 24/7, constantly monitoring your progress throughout the detox process. You will be prescribed a variety of detox medications to help alleviate and relieve symptoms of withdrawal.
Also, while in a medical detox facility, you will also have psychological support staff on site. Therapists, case managers, and other support staff will be present to help you through the difficult psychological aspect of detox and begin therapy to help you get to the root cause of your addiction.
Once safely medically detoxed, the next suggested step in the treatment continuum is the admission to an inpatient program.
While here, less focus will be put on the detox process and more on the therapeutic portion of treatment. Intensive full-time therapy sessions are conducted, and you will get to the bottom of the core issues that lead to substance abuse issues. Typically this stage of treatment lasts anywhere from 30 to 45 days (longer or shorter) depending on your individual needs.
After successful completion of an inpatient treatment program, it is recommended you step down into an intensive outpatient program (IOP). This will help you further strengthen your recovery and safeguard you from relapse.
IOP is a part-time therapy that keeps you accountable to your program via regular drug tests and mandatory attendance. It can act as an effective way to assimilate into society slowly without overwhelming yourself with independence that may lead inadvertently to relapse.
Because recovery is a lifelong event, we highly suggest participating in alumni programs. These programs are aimed at helping recent drug treatment graduates ease back into their everyday lives. From support groups to alumni picnics, these aftercare programs ensure that you have all the support you need to keep clean out of the treatment center.